Thursday, 3 March 2016

Catalina SP to Picacho Peak

Catalina is a beautiful State Park.

Catalina Mountain at sunset- except that we were rarely there to see this!

Our site did not quite have the beautiful cacti of Lost Dutchman and Usery
It is always full. One poor RV'er was moving sites every night so he could stay here.

Another mountain-we have been lucky with beautiful views

We spent a fair bit of time at McDonalds, as theirs was the best internet connection here. It was the best way to keep up with the news and with family and friends. This is the time of year that the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is in Tucson. This show is reputed to be the biggest in the world. We have been in Tucson three times, and only been to the Show once, at the Convention Center. For the first two weeks, the exhibitors, collectors and merchants are in hotels, on Main Street or Downtown locations in tents and in various hotel and motel rooms. Our first visit we wandered around the Main Street location.

The Australian tent where I got some pendants
There were tents and a large building with minerals, meteorites

A Meteorite

and huge fossils.

Charlie was hard to photograph as he was in front of large windows

There were rough minerals from Australia, as well as polished and smaller sections.

Australian Tigers Eye


Smaller pieces of Amethyst


Geodes- one of the larger ones

 Australian Crazy Lace Agate- I have a piece of this

The next day we went to LA Fitness and then went back to the show, but this time, after parking just off Main St., we took the free shuttle 

Waiting for the shuttle...
to the Tucson Hotel. There were dealers in the Lobby, in rooms, in the ballrooms, and outside around the Pool. It was fascinating. There are so many beautiful minerals, the crystals are spectacular,

One of the Ballrooms- from small semi precious to the highest quality gems
from geodes to the most delicate crystals. I bought several polished stones from Australian mines to be made into pendants. There are also many fossils, from the smallest trilobite

A "Fossil Table"

Inside one of the huge tents...

and ammolite to huge dinosaurs.

A Dinosaur by the pool
We were headed for a hike, before the Super Bowl, but stopped to talk to a couple from Florida, who just came in behind us, in an Airstream, They have been full-timing for 4 years, but have just had their Airstream since December. We did get a hike in, but much shorter, so we did part of the Bridle Trail

The Bridle Trail- great for horses

and part of the '50 Year Trail'. .

Looking down on our campground at the foot of the mountains

The paddock - there were always lots of horses and riders on these trails

View down the valley

Barrel cactus with fruit- leaning south-west

After a weights workout at LAF again, we decided to check out the gem and mineral show location downtown by the Convention Centre. The big section of the Show that we were at a year ago doesn’t open until the end of the week, but the multiple locations are open during the previous two weeks. There are dealers and miners from all over the world. Some displays are open only to wholesalers, while others are open to the Public as well. Many of the booths here, at the Pueblo Gem and Mineral Show,  have tumbled minerals and stones wrapped in silver or gold wire or already made up into jewellery, rings, pendants, stunning necklaces or earrings.

Huge displays of fossils

and large crystals...

-one large crystal- beautifully backlit

You could buy jewelery ready to wear...

or pendants just needing a chain

A friend from Toronto came to Tucson for the Gem and Mineral Show, but wanted to see the desert, so spent a day with us. We picked him up and drove up through Gates Pass into the Tucson Mountain Park. This is one of our favourite parts of Tucson. It is hard to believe you are right beside a major city. We first drove around a community to show him the adobe-style homes

I think he took more pictures than I did!

A beautiful community on the mountain

and ‘desert landscaping’, then stopped at the entrance to the park. 

 We climbed up part way to get pictures of the valley

View up towards mountains at beginning of the pass

The road through the pass

Looking down on the valley, part way up

View from the shelter near the top- as far as I went

and of the mountain. David and John climbed almost to the top, and wandered around,

John and David higher up than I...

wandering around, checking out the rocks...
I came down this side from the shelter...

while I picked my way down to the parking lot. 

We drove around Gilbert Ray campground, and took a short walk around the Brown Mountain Picnic Area.

Lunch time break at Brown Mountain

Brown's Mountain

Someone had taken pot shots at the park signs.

Target practice in the desert...

The desert here is similar to the areas around Usery Mountain

Lush, verdant desert here too...

Our next stop was in The Saguaro National Park, West. We explored the Visitor Centre
A Saguaro skeleton

View from the back of the Visitors' Centre
and a few short trails.

Javelina Wash Trail

Water has carved out the rock along the trail
There was a Ranger-led short walk to explain some of the different cacti and plants.

Our ranger guide- interesting and knowledgeable

One small bush is really flexible,

A very flexible bush, used for baskets
and was a favorite of the native people especially for their baskets. The ocotillo is not really a cactus,

The Ocotillo...

Ocotillo [far left- according to one of the rangers, it looks like
 "an alien squid fallen from space and landed upside-down".

but was popular for fences. When a branch is broken or cut off, and stuck in the ground, it begins to grow, therefore creating a ‘living fence’.

Ocotillo, often used for a living fence... this one is kept trimmed

We would have missed the tiny pincushion under a nurse bush.

Tiny pincushion cacti are often missed

These tiny cacti will be huge saguaros. They are about 10-15 years old now.

We drove up to the circle road around through the Park, stopping to take pictures and walk up the Valley View Overlook Trail.

Part way around the road...
This trail winds up a mountain

The trail started on the Bajada Wash Trail

with more unusual Saguaros,

pencil chollas,

and skeletons of fallen cacti [this is a Prickly Pear],

all different types of vegetation

This is why it is Saguaro National Park.

in the Tucson Mountains to a cliff where you view the entire valley. We looked north and spotted Picacho Peak, 40km away,

Our next State Park, Picacho Peak on the left across the valley.
then wound our way back down.

The path back down...

a Saguaro about 30-40 years old

Instead of completing the loop, we took a shortcut into Tucson which indicated it was for vehicles with a high clearance only. It didn’t look too bad, so off we went. In fact, it was an easy drive over a dirt road, with only a couple of rocks to be careful of. We were so glad we had taken it, as at one corner, we saw a hawk on the top of a saguaro

A hawk sitting right at the top of the highest Saguaro
and around another bend a couple of small coyotes ran across in front of us. David quickly got out of the car to get a picture, but they had disappeared into the desert vegetation. After a short stop

We again only saw the mountains from a distance on the way home.

to show David our home, we drove to Daisy Mae’s Barbeque and Steak House for dinner. It was an excellent meal of perfectly cooked steaks.

We discovered that driving down Canada [Can-yada] Avenue was a fast way down to LAF and into downtown Tucson, rather than taking Oracle which is Highway 77. It is much more pleasant, not as much traffic or as many stores. The noise barriers on the sides of the road have beautiful designs and patterns.
Some are tile designs...

some use glass blocks and varied shapes and colours for a 3D effect

or different shaped blocks. Note the 'crested' or 'cristated' Saguaro on the top section
The RAM had to go into the dealers to get an oil change and check-up. One of the items was changing the spark plugs, which is not an easy task on this truck as there are 16 and they are awkward to reach. We drove it down, and decided to walk around for the 3 hours it would take. There wasn’t much around the area –just a couple of large U-shaped plazas with a lot of stores closed-,

and odd signs- on the doors-"CASH NOW",
but in the window,"NO CASH KEPT ON PREMISES"

until we walked up 22nd and found a Golf Complex. There was a very unique driving range- there were flags and green to aim for place down a long ‘fairway’,

Flags rather than distance targets

Not just a field, but rolling terrain

and then a beautiful golf course and clubhouse restaurant.

at the entrance to the course

the first tee

mixture of greens and brown fairways
We sat on the patio with cold water and $2 draft beer, before walking back to the dealer.

We have really learned to stop playing “tourist” and trying to cram everything in to our time in these beautiful parks. We now often spend part of the day in our chairs by the trailer, watching the world go by and appreciating the beautiful scenery. We spent one morning photographing a pair of roadrunners.

Then it was time to move from Catalina up the road to Picacho Peak State Park.

Our first close view of Picacho Peak

We had been here before, and loved the openness and security. [The gate shuts at 10pm, and no one can get in or out after that. [If you are late, there is a 4km walk to the campground site.]

Our site, wide and level

View to the highway and the other half of the mountain, Picacho Peak

The wide open campground

Picacho Peak up close
This was important for us as we took a red-eye flight back to Toronto to do some banking, get the mail and visit with our daughter and grandson- all in one day, before flying back the next day.

We  spent a couple of days driving back

Army National Guard Aviation Training site

More barren desert driving back to Tucson
and wandering around Tucson. The Visitors Centre Plaza is a delightful place.

Bright colours on living space, 

odd angles and a fitness club too!

As are some of the interesting historical areas. We walked around the Presidio,

Presidio wall

Inside the Presidio Wall today
Log Palisade

Presidio Wall
plaque on the adobe wall

a section of the the adobe wall of the Presidio

on the sidewalk, the site of the wall of the Presidio

and the timeline of Tucson history.

Follow the yellow painted line...
Then, we walked across a large Plaza, and got an interesting perspective on the surrounding buildings.

A large central plaza

A type of telescope to focus on one feature

Looking back at the government building

We walked downtown up one one-way street,

Interesting architecture, and

The metal cutout,overhanging the sidewalk, allows the sun
to cast a beautiful pattern on the lower wall
finding a wonderful place to have lunch- Fired Pie.

Excellent spot for lunch
The individual pizzas were excellent.

Then we walked back down the other way, discovering a great coffee house

Outstanding lattes 
A great way to create a separate space. Note how table is made.
and brewery. We took a side trip down an historic street

The entrance to the Historic Street

to see the the historic buildings,

A private semi-detached home

Royal Elizabeth B&B Inn

A hotel, for rent or sale

TOBY- in the middle of the history!

Simple, beautiful, clean lines 

including the Temple of Music and Art

An outdoor courtyard

The entrance to the Theatre
and Saint Augustine Cathedral.

An impressive building

Intricate carving

A flower bower at the end of the plaza

An outdoor plaza
and downtown unique buildings.

A downtown tile wall

Newer and unique...

The historic FOX Theatre

Outside foyer of the FOX
Just before we got in the truck to leave, we discovered that Main Street, the street we had parked on near the Old Town Artisans,

A variety of artisans in one building

The central courtyard

had a number of historic homes. They are beautiful!

Map of Main Street

Story of the Presidio across the street

Corbett House

Corbett House

Chayney House

Kruttschnitt House, now El Presidio Inn B&B

Oak Flat, originally Owls Club

Franklin House

A unique entrance

Steinfeld House

Sculpture in one garden, with sun streaming through 

On the way home, we stopped at the Tucson Outlet Mall.

A street of the outdoor Tucson Outlet Mall.

It is quite upscale, and didn’t have many real bargains, but it did have Godiva Chocolates! They were expensive, but oh so delicious.

It is time once again to say goodbye to Picacho Peak and head to our last stop in Arizona, Organ Pipe National Monument.

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